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There are cases in which judges have been found civilly liable for misappropriating funds entrusted to their care.142 However, in these cases the doctrine of judicial immunity apparently was overlooked, because there is no mention of it. Nevertheless, misappropriation of funds entrusted to the care of a judge may be beyond the scope of immunity on the ground that it is not a judicial act. Or, liability for misappropriating funds may be imposed on judges by statutory provisions that overrule, in some aspects, the common law doctrine of immunity.143 Whatever the rationale might be, it seems quite reasonable to hold judges liable for misappropriating funds for their own use. Such behavior, after all, amounts to theft, and judges should be made to return any funds they have stolen from others.
On the other hand, immunity should shield judges from liability for honest errors of judgment they may commit in administering funds or estates assigned to their care. According to the case law, judges do possess immunity for honest mistakes in the administration of funds or estates.144 There are a few decisions, though, which state that immunity does not cover ministerial acts by judges that result in negligent loss to an estate.145 Ministerial acts are usually regarded as nonjudicial in character and, hence, not within the ambit of immunity.146 In some instances, judges are made liable by statute for the negligent administration of an estate resulting in loss to the estate.147
(San Diego Law Review. Jeffrey M. Shaman)
142 See Brown v. Rutledge, 20 Ga. App. 118, 92 S.E. 774 (1916); King County v. United Pac. Ins. Co., 72 Wash. 2d 604, 434 P.2d 554 (1967).
143 See Commonwealth v. Lee, 120 Ky. 433, 86 S.W. 990 (1905).
144 See Truesdale v. Bellinger, 172 S.C. 80, 172 S.E. 784 (1934).
145 See e.g., id. at 87-88, 172 S.W. at 787.
146 American Surety Co. v. Skaggs' Guardian, 247 Ky. 687, 57 S.W.2d 495
147 See cases cited supra note 146.